Container data centres | Cadolto Datacenter
Structure, development history and disadvantages compared to modular data centres

Container data centres not tied to location

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System container construction

Container data centres are made using standard transport containers i.e. usually shipping containers. All of the necessary components of a data centre can be provided in a container in an all-in-one solution, including servers, storage, network hardware, power, cooling, and fire protection systems – just like in a normal data centre. Partial equipment is also possible on request.

A data centre consisting of one container or several networked system containers can be used at different locations. It is a simple solution that can be relocated at short notice if necessary.

Development history: Container data centres

The idea to use containers for data centres came about in the 2000s in response to the growing demand for flexible, quickly available data centre infrastructures. Pioneers in this field included companies such as Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle) and Google. Sun Microsystems introduced “Project Blackbox” in 2006, which is regarded as the first commercial container data centre. Google filed a patent for a “water-based data centre in a container” in 2005. The servers are cooled by natural water sources such as rivers or seas.

Although data centre containers offer many advantages due to their mobility, flexibility and quick implementation, there are some disadvantages when compared to modular data centres. Here are some of the key points:

01 Room height and room width

Due to the construction, there is normally limited space in container data centres. In comparison to modular data centres, which can be individually adapted to the operator’s requirements, container data centres are limited to the dimensions of a standard shipping container. This means the room height and widths are fixed, making the arrangement and access to IT systems difficult. This can also affect scalability.

02 Fire protection

Container data centres do not have the same fire protection properties as conventional or modular data centres. They tend to be made of steel and highly combustible materials. This makes them more vulnerable to fire and its consequences. Modular data centres can come with specially developed fire protection systems and measures that ensure the protection of employees and the IT infrastructure.

03 Energy efficiency

Container data centres also struggle to be energy efficient. The compact design and the limited possibility for individual adjustment can make cooling the IT systems more difficult. Modular data centres usually offer more options for integrating efficient cooling systems, such as free cooling or hot/cold aisle housings, which reduce energy consumption and improve PUE values (Power Usage Effectiveness).

04 Adaptability

Container data centres tend to be less flexible than modular data centres. IT infrastructure requirements can change over time. Container data centres offer less flexibility for customisation and expansion due to their limited dimensions and structure. On the other hand, modular data centres are designed to be more flexible and can be more easily adapted to changing requirements.

05 Sound insulation

Since container data centres usually have thin steel walls, they offer less sound insulation than their modular counterparts. This can result in higher noise levels for employees, especially if several container data centres are operated in close proximity. On the other hand, modular data centres can offer better soundproofing solutions that reduce noise levels and improve working conditions for employees.

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Container or modular data centre?

Despite these disadvantages, container data centres can be a suitable solution for certain use cases and in special situations such as temporary projects, rapid deployment or as an addition to existing data centres. Nevertheless, operators should carefully weigh up the limitations and disadvantages mentioned previously, before opting for a container data centre.

In many cases, modular data centres offer greater flexibility, better energy efficiency and increased protection for the IT infrastructure. They can be customised to individual requirements and expanded as necessary. This makes them a future-proof, sustainable solution for data management.

Container data centres can be advantageous in certain situations, but the disadvantages compared to modular data centres in terms of room height, room width, fire protection and energy efficiency should be taken into account. In many cases, modular data centres are the preferred choice because they offer greater flexibility, adaptability and efficiency while ensuring the protection of IT infrastructure and employees. Operators should carefully consider their specific requirements in order to find the optimal solution for their data centre.

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